We really can’t get through life without facing conflict of some kind. It happens at school when kids don’t get on and start punching one another, or pulling the girls hair. It happens to everyone at some stage, and some of us have great difficulty moving on, and some never get over the conflict.
Some people hate conflict and will do all they can to avoid it, and can sometimes find themselves unable to deal with it, while others seem to thrive on conflict—as though it gives them some kind of impetus to deal with their lives and they may not always want conflict to cease. Maybe you’ve met someone who wants to argue with you all the time, or is itching for a verbal stoush. We’re all different!
Imagine this scene in a typical home. The sister works hard all day doing what her mother asked—scrubbing the tile floors, cleaning the windows, folding the laundry. Her brother, however, spends his Saturday out with friends instead of doing his chores. To make matters worse, when her brother does come home, he succeeds in tromping mud down the entrance hall and doesn’t even help to wipe it up.
Then suddenly, she blows her top. She tells him how thoughtless he is, among other things, and does not stop until she’s vented her frustration. A few minutes later, as she sees his dejected, surprised face, she feels horrible. Now it will take much talking and forgiving to work through their disagreement. That is the way it is with conflict.
We Cannot Avoid Conflict
Whether we hate conflict or whether we like conflict, we cannot avoid it. Conflict exists everywhere—in domestic situations, in communities, in the church, in our country, and on the global arena. In your work place, there’s probably someone you don’t like, and you need to be careful in what you say, to avoid conflict.
I think the real question is not to choose whether there is conflict or not, but how to deal with it when we meet it. Dealing with conflict in a good way can bring healing, harmony, peace and a society at ease with itself. Dealing with conflict in a bad way can cause hostility to grow in local situations and can even bring about war in global situations.
The Bible has some advice for us, and that’s what we need. God’s Word gets right to the heart of so many issues in life. Christians sometimes mistakenly feel they will not have conflicts. But Jesus said, “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world” (John 16:33 – NIV).
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Personal conflicts take on a different flavour when we invite Jesus to help us. It really is that simple. But we like to complicate matters and let the problem boil over, and that usually means more pain and anger.
[Jesus said:] “In the world you will have much trouble. But take hope! I have power over the world!” – John 16:33 – NLV
In his book Christian Counselling, Gary Collins talks about why anger is a natural part of conflict. When a person is rejected, ‘put down’, humiliated, unjustly criticised, or otherwise threatened, anger is often aroused. Threats challenge our self-esteem and make us feel so vulnerable that anger and aggression become ways to fight back.
Sometimes when we are threatened and made aware of our own imperfections, we respond in anger toward those who fail to meet our expectations of them. This directs attention away from ourselves, hides the fact that we are hurt or threatened, and lets us feel better at someone else’s expense.
It does make sense. According to one psychologist, hurt and anger almost always go together. “Seconds after the event which arouses the hurt feeling, another feeling skyrockets into awareness—anger.” The anger comes so quickly and is so apparent that it is easy to miss the hurt which comes first. Has that happened to you?
(Read How Can I Handle Personal Conflict? – Part 2)